By Joel Comiskey
Excerpts from Youth in Cell Ministry
Blake Foster leads the junior high and high school youth ministry at Antioch Community Church (ACC) in Waco, Texas. He became a follower of Jesus at twenty-six years old as a freshman at Baylor University and was discipled at ACC. When he graduated from Baylor, he prepared to pay off his loans and go to the mission field. In fact, he and his wife both felt a call to missions and were considering going to the Middle East to spread the gospel. Youth ministry was never on his mind until the college pastor asked if he’d be willing to consider it. He and his wife took time to pray and fast. During that time period he received a prophecy about walking through the open door and felt God was calling him to say yes.
Up to that point, Foster was accustomed to ministering to young adults, not youth. But God showed him that the younger youth were his new mission field. As I interviewed Foster, the phrase “cross-cultural missions” came up again and again. “I see my friends on Instagram, and at times I wish I was ministering to those of my own age group,” Foster said. “Yet, God has called me to my new mission field of young people.” Foster realized that he couldn’t effectively minister to the youth half-heartedly. It required total immersion. “You have to be involved heart and soul. You can’t do it half-heartedly. You have to be restless to allow God to enlarge your territory and your own heart. You have to be willing to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.”
Each culture will define youth a bit differently. Youth in San Salvador, El Salvador, face unique problems, like gang warfare. Youth growing up in the high-tech culture of Orange County, California, face challenges such as busyness, materialism, and indifference. Like missionaries, those working with youth need to study their target audience. No doubt, some youth pressures and characteristics are similar to all youth everywhere but even those similarities are constantly in flux.
Youth normally starts at age thirteen until the person takes responsibility for his or her actions. Most cultures would agree that youth ends when the person turns into a responsible individual who is no longer dependent on parents. But there is also the question of age brackets. For example, those who are thirteen to sixteen years old have different needs than those in the seventeen to twenty-one age bracket.
Those working with young adolescents should be sensitive to their level of maturity, not thinking they are developing faster than they are. The age of the youth will also determine how much adult supervision is needed. Junior high groups, for example, need a lot more adult attention than senior high school groups or those who have graduated from high school.
Becoming a missionary to youth involves discovering the core rules that motivate youth to behave the way they do.
Just like missionaries who learn a language and culture, those effective in reaching youth need to get involved in the social world of youth. It involves understanding and experiencing those things that affect youth today. The best youth missionaries know adolescents better than adolescents know themselves.